Bob Ramsdell, the inspirational chairman of our town’s shellfish committee, and I headed down to Rockland yesterday to attend the shellfish management workshops at the 36th annual Fisherman’s Forum held at the Samoset Resort. We wanted to check out what was happening legislatively and pick up what we could to better manage our own town clam flats.
Although the business of clamming is a “small fish” in the overall industry, comes with some powerful traditions and economic benefit. What may be the most interesting thing about the clamming industry in Maine is that it’s the only fishing industry that’s destiny is completely controlled by the local municipality. Any town or region that wants to open its coast to digging sets up its own shellfish ordinance, hires its own shellfish warden, sets up permits and water testing with DMR and hopefully puts together a strong/ motivated shell-fish committee consisting of diggers and non-digging residents.
Searsport lost many of its most of the productive clam mud when it was removed to build a cause way to Sears Island. Our shellfish committee has been working to restore this area. Our greatest challenges have been daily management of the open digging areas at low tide, managing water quality, extensive quantities of dog feces,
predators like the carnivorous moon snail, milky ribbon worms and the most destructive….the green crab Carcinus maenus. We continually monitor the flats for survival rates by conducting inventories (digging parties) and keep on the lookout for the arrival of the Asian shore crab and the Chinese mitten crab
Anyhow, we pulled into the parking lot to park along with the other 500 pickup trucks at the forum, picked up our info packets, ate some fresh clam chowder and hot fresh bread, then settled in for some clamming talk with the state’s biologists and fellow diggers. The pressures on this way of life, whether a full timer or a summer recreational digger is greater that ever as evidenced by the days topics: Water pollution, ocean acidification (caused by the rapid increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere), raising water temperatures (warmer waters prevent winter kill of crab population-bigger problem in Downeast waters), development, fertilizer runoff, bio-toxins, more people and their dogs…the list goes on. But these issues seem to bring more resolve to the clamming community, moving us to make better use of technology, communication and education.
The Forum continues through Sat. evening so head on over if you have a few hours. It’s a great way to get a feel for the expanse and history of the fishing industry in Maine. Check out one of the seminars (if there’s enough room) and don’t forget to buy some lunch before heading down to the vendors area to check out the big marine diesel engines. You won’t find anything like it in New England.
Watch as two brothers display their life-long passion for digging clams, a family tradition in Maine:
written by Astrig’s husband, Steve